Monthly Archives: May 2006

Moose bridges

ElgebroCory writes about overpasses and tunnels designed to let animals tranfer themselves – and their genes – across highways from Yukon to Yellowstone.

This is not news here in Norway – we have had "moose bridges" for years. They are a standard feature of all highways leading out of Oslo, as well as across the high-speed train to the main airport. The design is less ambitious than that visualized at Boingboing. We don’t do underpasses, since Norwegian moose won’t use them (whether US critters are less discerning remains to be seen.) As for using barbed wire for capturing fur…, well that is going to be a real motivator for sexually adventurous animals, isn’t it?

Anyway, the motivation for the bridges here in Norway is much simpler: Avoiding collisions between moose and cars. A moose can weigh in at 550 kg (1200 lbs.), and has long, thin legs which elevates most of that mass to just the perfect height for entering your car through the windscreen.

Moose warning signWhich reminds me of a little anecdote: When I moved to the US in 1990, I had to sell my SUV, a Mitsubishi Pajero (1987 model). I advertised it, and it ended up being bought by one of my business school colleagues. I was a little uncomfortable selling the car to a colleague – not that there was anything wrong with it, but if you sell it to someone you know, you take on a bit more responsiblity, at least morally.

Anyway, I moved to the States, then came back home for a holiday a year later. Visiting my old place of employment, I was walking through the main hallway when I heard my colleague shouting "Espen, Espen!" and literally running towards me. My neck hairs came up – was there something wrong with the car?

My colleague – a professor of organizational psychology – was short of breath and panted "Thanks for saving my life!" Eventually, the story came out:

He had been teaching a course at a branch campus outside Oslo in January. On his way home in, he had decided to take a short-cut using a dirt road through the forest. And as he came round a bend, he ran smack into a bull moose that nearly totalled the Pajero. But since the car was high off the ground and frame-built, it absorbed the impact in the front rather than with the windscreen, and my colleague was not hurt. If he had had a normal car, he said, he would almost certainly have been killed. "What a car, what a car!", he exclaimed, again thanking me profusely.

As he walked off, my heartbeat slowly returned to normal, and I thought it was a good thing I had kept quiet and not pointed out the obvious: If he had had a normal car, he would never have taken that shortcut in the first place….


Incidentally, here’s a page, in Norwegian, explaining about moose bridges. As for the moose signs, one of the problems with them is that tourists – particularly Germans – like them and steal them as souvenirs. So now you can buy them at all the tourist shops.

New essay in Ubiquity

ACM UbiquityMy latest essay in ACM Ubiquity is called "The waning importance of categorization" – and deals with the impact on those who categorize when information becomes infinitely searchable. Not unlike Kevin Kelly’s latest article in New York Magazine, though I deal more with the near-term changes. The main point is that, just as mobile phones made us substitute communication for planning, digitally searchable information will make us search rather than categorize.

Apple is just Microsoft with a sense of style

You have to like Bob Cringely – if nothing else, he is colorful and direct. So also in his latest column, with gems like

Apple is just Microsoft with a sense of style.


IBM is a disaster-in-the-making. Big Blue as a total enterprise is running primarily on customer inertia and clever advertising, which definitely isn’t enough.

His point is that IBM and Microsoft have increasingly obsolete business models which will be disrupted as Google comes along and basically organizes the Internet by slicing off the important part of the infrastructure package (that is, the one that is changing) and monetizing it by lots of small ads rather than large and rather opaque licensing and service contracts.

And there, of course, he has a point. Except, of course, that Microsoft and IBM have changed in response to external pressures before, and should by no means be counted out yet.

Fun, though. Interesting times.

Hanging exports

Gallows exporter?The BBC report about a UK farmer exporting gallows to Africa is making the rounds in the blogosphere. I personally find this a little hard to believe – not from the concept itself, but the pricing: Isn’t £12k a little much to pay for a few beams of oak and some metal? Especially if you are a cash-strapped African country (though the regime may have the money) with occasionally inadequate transportation? I would think that if anything could be manufactured locally, this could.

As for £100,000 portable "execution systems", I suspect a hoax here….even though this is from BBC.

(Via BoingBoing and others)

Innovation as an ongoing process

It can’t be said too often, but Techdirt sums it up yet again: Innovation is an ongoing process, and companies compete by creating a series of fleeting competitive advantages.

When I worked for CSC Research, we used to joke that you could always, during a presentation or in a report, make the point that "X is a process, not an event", and get away with it. Chiefly because, for most values of X, it is true.

South America’s left turn, as seen by Becker and Posner

The Becker-Posner blog is a delight, something I have come to appreciate even more after my eldest daughter started studying international politics and economy and Dad needs access to rapid and pointed analysis to hold his own around the dinner table.

Their latest discussion is about leftism in South and Latin America, with Becker starting and Posner adding a few points, primarily about the cultural and even religious angle.

I particularly liked Posner’s take on how democracy works:

Democracy is not a deliberative process (as many academics believe), in the sense that voters examine and discuss issues and so formulate a thoughtful, knowledgeable opinion on what policies are right for the nation or for them. Voters have neither the time, the education, nor the inclination for such an activity, as intellectuals imagine. All they know is results. So if the Right fails to deliver on its promises, the Left takes over, whether or not it has better or even different policies.

Blogging is a conversation, and Becker and Posner’s conversations are better than most.